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Women in Security: Meet Jan Lawford, Senior Director of EMEA Security Sales at VMware Security Business Unit

Written by Samantha Mayowa, Head of Global Communications at VMware Security Business Unit

We meet a real team player at VMware, Jan Lawford Senior Director of EMEA Security Sales, who addresses why it is so important for women to overcome self-doubt, why passion drives success and why it is key to have a growth mindset to succeed.

Jan has international tenure at brands such as Dell EMC, RSA Security, Avaya and more, Jan has extensive technical, sales, and channel experience. She also dedicates her time to help drive diversity and inclusion for the benefit of all employees and business performance internally.

By shedding light on the women of VMware Security Business Unit and their incredible successes, we hope to inspire other talented women to make their mark in the industry. Follow the VMware Women in Security Series, here.

Tell us what excites you about your new role at VMware?
One of my big passions is helping individuals develop their careers and accelerate their success. As the new leader of the talented EMEA security sales team, I am excited about the opportunity to work with each member of the team to help them define how they can be even more successful, deliver more value to our customers and accelerate the success of the security business for VMware. At the end of 2021, I want the team to look back at the success they have achieved and how as individuals they have positively contributed to the overall performance of the team.

How did you land a career in security and what led you to the VMware Security Business Unit?
I didn’t start out in tech; in fact, my first job was in the toy industry. One of the managers that I worked with left the business, entered a tech company, and asked me to join him. We are going back more than 25 years and at the time I realised that the tech industry was a great place to be.

Prior to joining VMware, I was at Dell for seven years and responsible for a sales team focused on converged infrastructure solutions, which meant I was working closely with VMware. This gave me the opportunity to really gain a good understanding of the technology, culture, and values of the organisation, all of which were a big part of the attraction. The other compelling draw was the opportunity to step back into a role in cybersecurity – which has never been more important to customers than it is today.

Who is your role model in tech or security?
I wouldn’t say I have a particular role model per se; however, I have really benefited from more informal mentoring from various individuals over the years. At the time, I didn’t always identify or recognise it as being mentored, but looking back, there are several key individuals that really helped me develop my career.

I know this might sound a bit of a cliché, but my husband has been and continues to be a huge support and influence on me. We met in the IT industry many years ago and I always get very honest and constructive feedback from him, which I admit at times, I don’t always want to hear, but this has been hugely beneficial.

What excites you most about security and the future of security at VMware?
What really attracted me to security in the first place is that the industry is so fast-paced and dynamic, with innovation happening every day. Looking back there has been a huge evolution in the industry from when I first joined and the technical capabilities that are accessible to businesses today are unrecognisable.

Security has never been as critical as it is today. The pivot to remote working has further accentuated the importance of a robust security strategy and capability, with our workplaces morphing into our living rooms, our home offices, and our spare rooms. Additionally, it’s not just about organisations losing money or brand reputation anymore; cyberattacks are causing real-world problems, putting lives at risk, in the case of the healthcare industry.

At VMware, we can not only deliver business value through technical innovation, but from a broader perspective we can have a real impact on the quality of people’s everyday lives and the challenges we face in the world today.

What advice do you have for women looking to get into the security industry?

To be successful in any industry women must first manage their own self-doubt. There is a lot of research and commentary around self-doubt being the real glass ceiling for women. Therefore, it is important for women to make sure that they are dealing with this. And when that internal voice questions whether we can rise to the challenge and whether we can succeed, we must address that nagging doubt, otherwise it can become a real limiting factor.

Throughout my own career I have always believed in being passionate about what you are doing. Passion drives success. So, try to choose a career path that you believe in and are incredibly passionate about.

It is also imperative to have a growth mindset, to always be open to learning. If you are progressing you will be facing challenges as you move to the next stage in your career, therefore it is important to invest time in developing the skills you may not possess and to believe in your ability to constantly develop and grow to meet the next challenge and the next opportunity.

Follow your instinct. I think women have natural skills and attributes that make them a great fit for security. Women can gauge risk very differently to men and they are good at identifying changing patterns of behaviour naturally so that is a great skill for identifying threat actors.

Finally, how can we create an inclusive and supportive environment for women in the workplace?

A flexible working environment will always be important. Women often have significant demands on them outside of the workplace therefore, where possible, employers should try and accommodate these demands and support a flexible work schedule. This will ensure that a work-life balance is maintained.

A transparent culture is also critical. Organisations need to have an honest and respectful dialogue internally to make sure that there is no negative bias, conscious or unconscious.

Finally, sponsorship opportunities are vital. It is important that as women start to progress through their career, that they are given the opportunity and access to sponsorship, to support them on their journey to success.


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